Tonight’s cuppa: English breakfast tea
A couple of weeks ago, Los Angeles-based Fox News Channel correspondent Adam Housley was in Las Vegas, sampling fresh tech at the Consumer Electronics Show. Now, he’s on assignment in Haiti, covering the devastation left in the wake of the earthquake that struck the Caribbean island nation on Jan. 12.
The two topics unexpectedly overlapped, as Housley explains while calling in during a brief trip on Tuesday to pick up supplies in the neighboring Dominican Republic before heading back to Haiti.
Housley wound up using a plug-in mike he found at the show to record better audio for reports shot on his iPhone. Then, a little more tech wizardry allowed Housley and his cameraman, Eric Barnes, to turn rescue footage shot by Congressman Kendrick Meek of Florida into broadcast news.
‘We brought over my photographer’s computer,” says Housley, “and plugged (the iPhone) in. I dragged the file down to Eric’s computer in a Quicktime format. He sat down and dragged it into an editing program and cut it down so we could put it on Geraldo Rivera’s show.
“Then we FTPed it into New York. They dragged it down, and it was on the air, all in a 20-minute process.”
Along with Meek’s skills as an impromptu cameraman, Housley praised him for “doing a good job of staying out of the way” of the rescue efforts, something Housley says he and his colleagues strive for as well.
“If you’re going to go,” he says, “show the story, but don’t be a burden. Get the job done; show the story; but don’t become part of the story. Whatever you do, God forbid, don’t take away from those people who are trying to help others.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re grabbing supplies right now. We don’t want anybody to have to worry about us.”
As anyone who has been watching the Haiti coverage knows, the visuals have been horrendous. FNC’s Steve Harrigan choked up on air while talking about the destruction and loss of life. Taking it one step further, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon, even pitched in to help.
But for a reporter who’s not also a physician, the human impulse to help becomes more complicated.
“My crew would agree,” says Housley, “our jobs as news crews for Fox News is not to become part of the story. It’s to show the story, tell the story, get close to the story, but not become the story.
“No one should care whether Adam Housley climbs up on a pile of rocks. They should care that the picture I’m showing shows them what’s happening, as if they were there. It’s history from the front row. That’s what it’s all about.”
But, veteran correspondent Geraldo Rivera, host of FNC’s “Geraldo at Large,” did just get involved in bringing supplies to an orphanage in Haiti, as outlined in this Huffington Post piece.
“There’s a slight difference there,” says Housley. “One, he is on a show, but two, that was a situation where … if it’s dire, of course, we’re going to help. If we’re talking about somebody drowning, I’m not going to sit there and watch them drown so I can get the video. That will never happen.
“So, yes, there are very small exceptions. In that situation, Geraldo went out to an orphanage that hadn’t had water in three days, and there was no one getting anything to them.
“Now, putting him on camera, I can’t quote on that, because I didn’t see the story. But I know they went out there, because I got emailed by the same people who were trying to get us out there. We didn’t have a car at that point. Geraldo’s crew did; they went.
“The point is, the story isn’t about us. It’s not supposed to be that. Our job is to show it. We will never leave somebody hanging, but if we were to go out there all of a sudden with water in the back of our truck, passing it out every time we do a story, it would cause more of a problem than a help.
“Unless you’re going to some specific small location where nobody knows you’re there, you go out of the city with water in the back of your truck, you’ll start a riot. The military has to stop what they’re doing and come and stop a riot.
“And you’re putting your crew in jeopardy of being injured; now you’re taking a spot in a medical hospital from people hurt in the earthquake. The point is, that’s not what we’re there to do, and if we do that, it causes more problems than good. We can show stories from the front row, and the people back home can see that, and they can volunteer, they can get water down here, they can give money.
“They can do all those things, and that’s going to be a much greater help than if Adam Housley and Eric Barnes walk out there with a case of water and start a riot.”
While Housley tries to maintain focus and composure, it’s impossible not to be affected.
“In this story,” he says, “I don’t care where you sit, this is an horrific thing to happen to a group of people. They’re beautiful people; they are. Every society has its good and bad, but the Haitian people have been so nice to us when we see them. We have pictures of kids that are just smiling and hamming for the camera, in horrible circumstances.”
As for the charge by Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez that America is using the aid in the cause of imperialism, Housley says, “There are always going to be people who have the bad intentions (they believe America has) in mind, but that’s not the case here. Sometimes you have to do what’s right. I think, when you talk to the military on the ground, they’re doing what’s right.
“Who cares what Chavez or anybody else says? What’s right, right now, is to make sure that we can get a safe supply line out to the people in Haiti who need food and water. … I’m sorry, those people who speak out against our actions here and think we’re doing the wrong, they need to get their butts on a plane and come down and see what’s wrong, because right now, there are a lot of people who need food and water.”‘
To see where Housley winds up next (although he’s probably not leaving Haiti anytime soon), you can follow him on Twitter at @AdamHousley.